Monday, January 22, 2007

CPRsouth: Docent for a Day

...or more accurately, half a day, which is how long I played tour guide to Intramuros and Fort Santiago for some CPRsouth delegates last Sunday.

Sunday was the end of the CPRsouth conference, and that left just half a day for many of the foreign visitors to take in the sights and shops of Manila. Some opted for a quick trip to Tagaytay and Taal volcano; a few others opted for a taste of Intramuros.

I overheard the plans being made on my table. Puree, a professor from Thailand, was poring over a map and I asked her if she wanted to go anywhere. It turned out that she and Hina, a researcher from Pakistan, wanted to visit the old walled city. Not wanting to leave two ladies -- and first-time visitors to Manila, at that! -- to the mercies of our taxi drivers and hucksters, I volunteered to play host.

You know how it is with groups, right? Someone hears of the plan, and wants to go, too. Others have made similar plans and decide to join up. Well, this was a textbook case.

Pretty soon, I had a small contingent of academics with me, a veritable United Nations from China, Canada, Pakistan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Uruguay. We piled into two taxis, made contingency plans of where to meet, crossed our fingers, and headed off.

First stop was the Manila Cathedral, and that proved to be a fascinating visit. Weddings were afoot, successive ones at that, and it all was something new to my CPRsouth guests: the en grande Filipino kasal.

Escaping from the clutches of a pesky horse-drawn carriage touts (though it was something we briefly considered), we headed to Fort Santiago, the site of national hero Rizal's incarceration and final days.

We were unanimously dismayed that it should have been turned into a golf course, but we soldiered on. I took them for a walk along the battlements and into the tunnels. Along the way, I explained nuances of Filipino culture and history, running into short comparative exchanges of other countries.

Certainly the highlight of the tour was the Rizal museum. It was still well-maintained, I was pleasantly thrilled to discover. My CPRsouth guests were engrossed in the exhibits, in particular, of the various translations of the Mi Ultimo Adios.

I fielded questions about Rizal, his views, his accomplishments, and his effect on the Philippines. It greatly helped that I had read Leon Ma. Guerrero's well-written account, and greater still, it helped that I had my own strong opinions of historical events.

But really, I was just icing on the cake: the real attraction was Fort Santiago itself, which has never ever disappointed me or any of the people I brought there.

Alas, the time sped by so quickly. Four o'clock, and time for me to head back to the hotel and pick up my bags for my evening flight back to Davao. So we said our goodbyes, and I packed them off for their shopping trip to Greenhills.

After all, some pursuits truly are universal.

See also Amee's pictures


  1. Its great that you got to play the tour guide and a representative of our nation and culture. Good deed.

  2. Dominique,

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I've visited Fort Santiago and that whole area of Luneta park many, many times, and they never fail to bring a lump to my throat.

    I read the Leon Ma. Guerrero book about Rizal as well, way back in high school! It really fired up a very strong feeling of nationalism in me. It should be required reading for all high school students in the Philippines (it wasn't in my school -- I read it on my own).

    Thanks for giving your visitors a memorable introduction to our country!